3 Reasons Why Seattle Will Win The Super Bowl
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Everyone is talking about the upcoming Super Bowl - and rightly so - and giving their opinion on who has the advantage. Whether you're a fan of the Seahawks or the Broncos, on paper it looks like one the most interesting and evenly matched games in quite some time. When you dig deeper, however, there's a few notable advantages that each team has - advantages that will likely be the difference between winning and losing.
Without further ado, here are the three reasons why Seattle will be the Super Bowl champions.
Despite all of the success that Denver has had through the air, their rush offense is actually quite average - perfectly average, in fact. We use a statistic called NEP here at numberFire, which stands for Net Expected Points. It's a defense-adjusted calculation of how a player performs in relation to what a perfectly average player or team would do in the same situation. Denver has a rushing NEP per play of 0.00, meaning that their rushing offense did exactly what an average rushing offense would, which is really quite surprising given how well Peyton Manning and the passing has performed.
On top of that, Denver throws the ball 1.51 times for every time they run, making them somewhat predictable, again casting some doubt towards how inefficient the "surprise" rushing attack with Knowshon Moreno really is. Part of the problem lies with the lack of advancement of Montee Ball as a feature back - something we knew would happen - and part lies with the one-sided play of Julius Thomas, whose complete lack of blocking ability often tips off plays based on where is he is lined up.
At the end of the day, it's a clear advantage for Seattle: their rush defense offers -0.06 NEP/P - good for #4 in the league. Considering that the only runners to truly breakthrough Seattle's wall were Zac Stacy and Frank Gore, both of whom are very different runners in vastly different formations than Denver's shotgun style attack, the ability to force Denver into obvious passing situations will help at least somewhat in slowing down Peyton's aerial game.
There's been a decent amount of discussion about whether or not Russell Wilson is elite enough to lead Seattle to the promised land. If his performance in the NFC Championship wasn't enough to turn that tide, let me share this with you: Seattle is fourth in passing NEP/P, adding 0.19 expected points to their score for every single pass play they run. That's pretty damn good.
This number becomes even more meaningful when you consider that Seattle has been ahead for most games, and thus their play calling becomes slightly more predictable. In fact, they are one of only two teams to have rushed the ball more often than not. This means that you're getting a lot of drives where Marshawn Lynch runs on the first two downs, leaving the passing offense to convert in obvious third down passing situations. They've clearly done it well, and going up against the #21 Denver pass defense, they'll have a lot of opportunities to make that conversions really count.
The health of Percy Harvin is certainly a question that will become clearer as we ride up to game day, but the most critical player here is actually Golden Tate, whose statistical comparables include possession receivers non-pareil like Derrick Mason, Wayne Chrebet, and Austin Collie, three players somewhat uniquely known for third-down conversions and smart, savvy, veteran route-running.
As mentioned above, Seattle has a negative pass/rush ratio (0.91), one of only two teams that rushes the ball more than they pass. This balance helps keep the defense at bay, sets up play action, and controls the game and the line of scrimmage - all of which are perfect for sustaining drives and keeping Peyton off of the field.
Although Denver has the #1 rush defense (-0.12 NEP/P), Seattle will need this balance to set up their offense and get themselves into manageable and advantageous down and distance situations. Russell's mobility here is key - his rushing contributions rank #2 amongst QBs behind Cam Newton, and have added over five touchdowns to his team's offense. This run/pass threat gives yet another wrinkle to Seattle's third-down playbook, perhaps the most important factor in whether or not they can pull off the minor upset and take up the Lombardi trophy.